Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Weed control

I spent three days last week killing noxious weeds. Specifically, I ran my vendetta against thistles (our perennial favorite, but actually a biennial), dandelions (an actual perennial, becoming more of a problem for all farmers in the area in the last few years), and hoary alyssum (or as Howard,the old farmer who mentored Dave, called it, "whore alyssum").

We've been killing thistles for years, ever since a bad drought back in the 80's when they took off because nothing else grew.  We've salted thistles, cut their stems when they were large hoping that rain water would get in there and rot the stem, scythed them when they were huge and blooming because we didn't get to that chore any earlier, sprayed them with herbicides in the summer, spring and fall. Two years ago we replanted  our hay fields to control the thistles and ended up with an amazing crop of dandelions and hoary alyssum.

I love dandelion blossoms, so bright and cheerful, but their broad, flat leaves take up a  lot of space in a field without producing useful forage. As our dandelion concentration grew, the amount of food our field produced decreased.

Hoary alyssum is an insignificant plant with small leaves and small flowers. Howard showed us a patch of it in a pasture thirty years ago and told us to watch out for it. We've kept watch and for thirty years, it sort of kept to itself. We pulled every flower stalk we saw and the plants didn't spread. Last summer, we found hoary alyssum everywhere, not just in one pasture, but scattered throughout our pastures and hay fields. When we called the county extension agent, he was pretty relaxed about the dandelions and thistles in our fields until we mentioned the alyssum and then he told us we had to replant.

So last fall we sprayed the hay fields with herbicides and this spring Dave planted oats into barren ground for hay. After we bale the oats he'll plant alfalfa for next year. I've been spot spraying the weeds around the edges of our fields and in the pastures. I'm using a noxious chemical to control the noxious weeds and I don't like it. However, in all our years of trying to farm as sustainably and as organically as possible, we have never met the organic standards.

Hopefully, by next summer, our noxious weed control can be delegated to our grandsons who love to pick dandelions blossoms by the bagful for their moms.

1 comment:

  1. Have had the same experience with a lovely little plant called Speedwell. Every organic has failed and Quinclorac only seems to turn the leaf edges brown and make it angry. Tony